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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia


March 21, 2013
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia: Mr. Speaker, I rise today along with the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. JONES, to introduce the ''Youth Prison Reduction through Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act'', or ''Youth PROMISE Act'' (YPA), a bill we believe will greatly reduce crime and its associated costs and losses. Senator LANDRIEU of Louisiana and Senator CASEY of Pennsylvania have indicated their intent to file companion YPA legislation in the Senate.

The Youth PROMISE Act implements the best policy recommendations from crime policy makers, researchers, practitioners, analysts, and law enforcement officials from across the political spectrum concerning evidence- and research-based strategies to reduce gang violence and crime. Under the Youth PROMISE Act, communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges will be able to enact a comprehensive, coordinated response and intervention that includes the active involvement of representatives from law enforcement, court services, schools, social service organizations, health and mental health care providers, the business community, and other public and private community-based service organizations, including faith-based organizations. These key players will form a council to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies for young people who are involved, or at risk of becoming involved, in gangs, delinquency, or the juvenile or criminal justice system to redirect them toward productive and law-abiding alternatives.

Title I: Federal Coordination of Local and Tribal Juvenile Justice Information and Efforts. Sec. 101 creates a PROMISE Advisory Panel. This Panel will assist the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in selecting PROMISE community grantees. The Panel will also develop standards for the evaluation of juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang activity prevention and intervention approaches carried out under the PROMISE Act. Sec. 102 provides for specific data collection in each designated geographic area to assess the needs and existing resources for juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang activity prevention and intervention. This data will then facilitate the strategic geographic allocation of resources provided under the Act to areas of greatest need for assistance.

Title II: PROMISE Grants. Sec. 202 establishes grants to enable local and tribal communities, via PROMISE Coordinating Councils (PCCs) (Sec. 203), to conduct an objective assessment (Sec. 204) regarding juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang activity and resource needs and strengths in the community. The assessment will include an estimate of the total amount spent in the previous year by the community and other entities for the incarceration of offenders who committed offenses in the community. Based upon the assessment, the PCCs will then develop plans that include a broad array of evidence-based prevention and intervention programs. These programs will be responsive to the needs and strengths of the community, account for the community's cultural and linguistic needs, and utilize approaches that have been proven to be effective in reducing involvement in or continuing involvement in delinquent conduct or criminal street gang activity. The PCCs can then apply for federal funds, on the basis of greatest need, to implement their PROMISE plans (Sec. 211-213). In addition, each PCC will be required to identify cost savings sustained from investing in prevention and intervention practices and explain how those savings will be reinvested in the continuing implementation of the PROMISE Plan (Sec. 212). Title II also provides for national evaluation of PROMISE programs and activities (Sec. 223) based on performance standards developed by the PROMISE Advisory Panel.

Title III: PROMISE Research Center. Sec. 301 establishes a National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices. This Center will collect and disseminate information to PROMISE Coordinating Councils and the public on current research and other information about evidence-based and promising practices related to juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang activity and intervention. Sec. 302 provides for regional academic research partners to assist PCCs in developing their assessments and plans.

During my more than 30 years of public service, I have learned that when it comes to crime policy, we have a choice--we can reduce crime, or we can play politics. For far too long, Congress has chosen to play politics by enacting so-called ''tough on crime'' slogans such as ''three strikes and you're out'', ''mandatory minimum sentencing'', ''life without parole'', ''abolish parole'' or ''you do the adult crime, you do the adult time''. My personal favorite is ''no cable TV in prisons.'' You can imagine the cable guy disconnecting the cable and then waiting for the crime rate to drop. As appealing as these policies may sound, their impacts range from a negligible reduction in crime to an increase in crime.

In spite of the counterproductive nature of these ''tough on crime'' laws, over the past two decades, Congress has continued to enact slogan-based sentencing policies. As a result, the United States now has the highest average incarceration rate of any nation in the world. At over 700 persons incarcerated for every 100,000 in the population, the U.S. far exceeds the world average incarceration rate of about 100 per 100,000. Russia is the next closest in rate of incarceration with about 600 per 100,000 citizens. No other nation is even close. Among countries most comparable to the U.S., Great Britain is 153 per 100,000, Australia is 129, Canada is 116, Germany is 95, France is 89, and Japan is 63. India, the world's largest Democracy, is 33 per 100,000 and China, the world's largest country by population, is 119 per 100,000. Since 1970, the number of individuals incarcerated in the U.S. has risen from approximately 300,000 to over 2 million.

This increase in incarceration does not come for free. Since 1980, the cost of corrections in this country has risen from about $7 billion annually to over $68 billion a year.

And the U.S. has some of the world's most severe punishments for crime, including for juveniles. Of the more than 2400 juveniles now serving sentences of life without parole, ALL are in the U.S. Some were given their sentence as first-time offenders under circumstances such as being a passenger in a car from which there was a drive-by shooting.

The impact of all this focus on tough law enforcement approaches falls disproportionately on minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics. While the incarceration rate in the United States is approximately 700 per 100,000, for Blacks the average rate is over 2200 per 100,000, and the rate in some jurisdictions exceeds 4,000 per 100,000 Blacks, a rate 40 times the international average. For Black boys being born today, the SentencingProject estimates that one in every three will end up incarcerated in their lifetime without an appropriate intervention. These children are on what the Children's Defense Fund has described as a ''cradle-to-prison pipeline.''

Despite all of our concentration on being tough on crime, the problem persists, and reports suggest that it is growing in some jurisdictions. While nothing in the Youth PROMISE Act eliminates any of the current tough on crime laws, and while it is understood that law enforcement will still continue to enforce those laws, research and analysis, as well as common sense, tells us that no matter how tough we are on the people we prosecute today, unless we are addressing the underlying reasons for why they develop into serious criminals, nothing will change. The next wave of offenders will simply replace the ones we incarcerate, and the crimes continue. So, just continuing to be ''tough'' will have little long term impact on crime.

There is now overwhelming evidence to show that it is entirely feasible to move children from a cradle to prison pipeline to a cradle to college and career pipeline. All the credible research and evidence shows that a continuum of evidenced-based prevention and intervention programs for youth identified as being at risk of involvement in delinquent behavior, and those already involved, will greatly reduce crime and save much more than they cost when compared to the avoided law enforcement and social welfare expenditures. There are programs for teen pregnancy prevention, prenatal care, new parent training, nurse home visits, Head Start, quality education, after-school programs, summer recreation and jobs, guaranteed college scholarships, and job-training that have been scientifically proven to cost-effectively reduce crime. And the research reveals that these programs are most effective when provided in the context of a coordinated, collaborative local strategy involving law enforcement, social services and other local public and private entities working with children identified as at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system. This is what the Youth PROMISE Act supports.

Aside from reducing crime and providing better results in the lives of our youth, many of these programs funded under the Youth PROMISE Act will save more money than they cost. We know this because it has already been done at the state level. For example, the state of Pennsylvania implemented similar type programs in 100 communities across the state using a process very similar to the one provided for in the Youth PROMISE Act. The state invested $60 million over a ten year period, and as a result of the programs implemented, the state yielded a savings of $300 million. In other words, the state found that it saved, on average, $5 for every $1 spent during the study period.

The bill is supported by 53 original co-sponsors and a coalition of over 250 national, state and local government, professional, civil rights, education and religious organizations listed below, a list that continues to grow. We know how to reduce crime, and we know that we can do it in a way that saves much more money than it costs. Our children, victims of crime, taxpayers and our economy can no longer afford for us to delay adoption of the Youth PROMISE Act. So, I ask my colleagues to join me in passing this bill and seeing to it that it is quickly enacted into law.


National Organizations

African American Ministers in Action; Afterschool Alliance; Alliance for Children and Families; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP); American Bar Association; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); American Correctional Association; American Council of Chief Defenders; American Federation of School Administrators, AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers (AFT); American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); American Jewish Congress; American Probation and Parole Association; American Psychological Association; Asian American Justice Center; ASPIRA, Inc.; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Boy Scouts of America; Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Campaign for Youth Justice.

Catholic Charities USA; Center for Children's Law and Policy; Child Welfare League of America; Children's Defense Fund; Coalition for Juvenile Justice; Coalition on Human Needs; Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL); Correctional Education Association; Council for Educators of At-Risk and Delinquent Youth; Council for Opportunity in Education; Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA); Democrats for Education Reform; Family Justice; Federal CURE; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; First Five Years Fund; First Focus Campaign for Children; Girls Inc.; Immigrant Justice Network; Institute for Community Peace.

Justice Policy Institute; Juvenile Justice Trainers Association; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; League of Young Voters; Legal Action Center; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office; Mental Health America; Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF); National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.; National Alliance of Black School Educators; National Alliance to End Homelessness; National Alliance for Faith and Justice; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice; National Association of Counties (NACo); National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

National Association of Juvenile Correctional Agencies; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO); National Black Police Association; National Center for Youth Law; National Consortium of TASC (Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities) Programs; National Council for Community Behavioral Health National Council of La Raza; National Council on Crime and Delinquency; National Council on Educating Black Children; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ); National Council for Urban (Formations) Peace, Justice and Empowerment; National Education Association; National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health; National Head Start Association; National Hire Network; National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

National Juvenile Defender Center; National Juvenile Detention Association; National Juvenile Justice Network; National Network for Youth; National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE); National Organization of Concerned Black Men, Inc.; National Partnership for Juvenile Services; National Parent Teacher Association (PTA); National Trust for the Development of African-American Men; National Urban League; National Women's Law Center; Open Society Policy Center; The Peace Alliance; Penal Reform International; pre[k]now; Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office; Prison Legal News; Prisons Foundation; Restorative Community Foundation.

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Southern Poverty Law Center; Students for Sensible Drug Policy; The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Law and Policy Section; The Rebecca Project for Human Rights; The School Social Work Association of America; The Sentencing Project; The Student Peace Alliance; Therapeutic Communities of America (TCA); Time Dollar Youth Court; TimeBanks USA; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; United Neighborhood Centers of America; U.S. Conference of Mayors; U.S. Dream Academy; U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA); VOICES for America's Children; W. Haywood Burns Institute; Washington Office on Latin America; Youth Law Center; Youth Matter America. State and Local Organizations

Alabama: Alabama Youth Justice Coalition; Equal Justice Initiative; Southern Juvenile Defender Center; Southern Poverty Law Center; VOICES for Alabama's Children; Parents, Youth, Children and Family Training Institute. Arizona: Children's Action Alliance. California: Alturas Mas Altas; Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Office of Restorative Justice; Asian Law Caucus; Barrios Unidos--Santa Cruz Chapter; California Public Defenders Association City and County of San Francisco; City of Los Angeles; City of Pasadena; Contra Costa County Public Defender's Office; Everychild Foundation; Faith Communities for Families and Children; Homies Unidos; Juvenile Court Judges of California; Juvenile Probation Commission of San Francisco, L.A. Unified School District; L.A. Youth Justice Coalition; Leaders in Community Alternatives, Inc.; Pacific Juvenile Defender Center; San Francisco Youth Commission. Colorado: The Pendulum Foundation. Connecticut: Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance; Families Moving Forward; The Poor People's Alliance, Connecticut Chapter. Delaware: Delaware Center for Justice (DE). District of Columbia: Young America Works Public Charter School; Columbia Heights Shaw Family Collaborative; DC Alliance of Youth Advocates; DC NAACP Youth Council; Facilitating Leadership in Youth (FLY); Justice for DC Youth; Latin American Youth Center; Life Pieces to Masterpieces, Inc. Florida: Children's Campaign, Inc.; Florida Public Defender Association, Inc.; Florida Public Defender, Fourth Judicial Circuit; Florida Families for Fair Sentences; Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office. Illinois: ACLU of Illinois; Chicago Area Project; John Howard Association of Illinois, Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois, Midwest Juvenile Defender Center, PTA of Illinois, United in Peace, Inc. Kansas: H.O.P.E., Inc. Kansas CURE. Louisiana: Families & Friends of La.'s Incarcerated Children; Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Maryland: Advocates for Children and Youth; CASA of Maryland, Inc.; Fusion Partnerships, Inc.; Identity, Inc.; Law Office of Anthony J. Keber; Maryland CURE; Maryland Department of Juvenile Services; Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition; Maryland Office of the Public Defender; Public Justice Center. Massachusetts: Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice; Citizens for Juvenile Justice; Youth Advocacy Project of the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Michigan: Michigan After-School Partnership; Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Minnesota: Minnesota Juvenile Justice Coalition. Mississippi: Mississippi CURE; Mississippi Youth Justice Project. Nebraska: VOICES for Children in Nebraska. New Hampshire: New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. New Jersey: New Jersey Association on Correction. New Mexico: County of Santa Fe; New Mexico Council on Crime and Delinquency; New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. New York: Center for Community Alternatives; Central American Legal Assistance; City of New York; City of New York Department of Juvenile Justice; Correctional Association of New York; The Fortune Society; Juvenile Justice Center of Suffolk University Law School; Quad A For KIDS / A Rochester Area Community Foundation Initiative. North Carolina: ACLU of North Carolina; Action for Children North Carolina; Council for Children's Rights; UNC Juvenile Justice Clinic, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. Ohio: ACLU of Ohio; Franklin County Public Defender; Hispanic Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program; Juvenile Justice Coalition; Peace in the Hood; United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; VOICES for Ohio's Children. Oregon: Partnership for Safety and Justice. Pennsylvania: Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania; Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Rhode Island: The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. South Carolina: Alston Wilkes Society; The Children's Trust of South Carolina. South Dakota: Parents Who Care Coalition. Tennessee: Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Texas: Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Utah: Utah Commission on Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice. Virginia: Barrios Unidos--Virginia Chapter; Families & Allies of Virginia's Youth; JustChildren; Keeping Our Kids Safe: The Newport News Violence Prevention Network; Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center, Juvenile Law and Policy Clinic, University of Richmond School of Law; Richmond Peace Education Center; The Center for Community Development, Inc.; The Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project (S.T.O.P.); The S.T.O.P. Family Investment Center at Oakmont North; Virginia Coalition for Juvenile Justice; Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education; Virginia Commonwealth University Center for School-Community Collaboration; Virginia CURE (VA); Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. Washington: Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Washington Defender Association; Washington Defender Association's Immigration Project. Wisconsin: ATTIC Correctional Services, Inc.; Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. Local Jurisdictions

City of East Cleveland (OH); City of Hampton (VA); City of Los Angeles (CA); City of New York (NY); City of Newport News (VA); City of Norfolk (VA); City of Pasadena (CA); City of Philadelphia (PA); City of Pittsburgh (PA); City of Portsmouth (VA); City of Richmond (VA); City of San Francisco (CA); City and County of San Francisco (CA); County of Santa Fe (NM); Elected Officials and Academics

Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff, County of Los Angeles (CA); Donna M. Bishop, Northeastern University (MA); Susan J. Carstens, Psy.D., L.P. Juvenile Specialist, Crystal Police Dept. (MN); The Honorable Toni Harp, Connecticut State Senator; The Honorable Alice L. Bordsen, North Carolina State Representatives; Jolanta Juszkiewicz, Ph.D., American University (D.C.); The Honorable Kelvin Roldán, Connecticut State Representative; Tony Roshan Samara, George Mason University (VA); Earle Williams, Psy.D. Hampton University, (VA); Aaron Kupchik, Ph.D., University of Delaware.